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Hoping to rake in 7% of annual revenue during Budget season, says Smriti Mehra of CNBC-TV18

The CEO, Business News, Network18 Group, shares how CNBC-TV18 is gearing up its budget coverage to attract more advertisers

Smriti Mehra

The ad revenue for the business channels of Network18 group during the ongoing year is likely to be up by 20-25% as compared to last year, said Smriti Mehra, CEO-Business News, Network18 Group. 

Mehra said that to serve its audiences the best, the coverage on CNBC-TV18 has been made more holistic with the new programming line-up. 

When asked how does she see the resumption of viewership data for TV News, Mehra, who also heads CNNNews18, said that it may not make a much of difference in terms of ad rates but with the elections happening in five different states, the ad revenue is likely to improve. 

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

The competition among business news channels and platforms reaches its epitome during the budget period. What new things does the channel have in its bucket for its audience around the budget coverage?

Whatever we do should not be new but also be credible, we get the most authoritative opinion leaders. The idea is to put out analysed quality content news for the audiences. As times are changing and the viewers are evolving, we are expanding the channels for reaching out to audiences. Since our viewer profile is changing with the new age people taking interest in the economy of the country and they moving towards the start-up ecosystem, our programming line is also mirroring with the interest of these audiences. 

We are not just reporting or analysing, we are coming up with a whole new set of offerings to cater to the viewers. This year we have started our Budget programming right from the start of the year, a very comprehensive set of line-ups from the beginning of January till the middle of February. This time we are also getting on board with policy leaders and market gurus. We have lined up specials such as ‘Indianomics’ and ‘Youngturks’.

2. What is in store for the advertisers? What are the various offerings for the brands other than the regular advertising between the shows and also on CNBC-TV18’s digital properties?

Budget period has been extremely important for us since the time of inception. It has been a property where we have a lot of advertiser interest as it also receives a lot of consumer interest. 

Since budget reflects on each part of the society, people are inclined towards knowing where their economy is leading and hence brands want to capitalise at a time like this. Budget programming caters to people from all walks of life, from the top CEO’s of the company to general public, it impacts everyone.

We provide a whole range of offerings to the brands, ranging from the ad time to the non-FCD elements on TV, then we expand it to our digital platforms, like live programming, features, etc. We take a large marketing campaign for our brands during this time. Thanks to the fact that we come under the umbrella of NW18, we don’t just use the external sources for our marketing but also our internals as well such as CNN and Forbes India. 

3. Which are the highest-selling properties during the budget period, in terms of what viewers/audience like and also the ones that interest the brands most?

The most exciting day for us is the Budget Day. The Union Finance Minister’s speech is the grand finale in the tournament, the economic survey becomes the highest point. 2-3 days Pre-budget and 2-3 days post budget are also very crucial where we decode the budget. 

These programming line-ups have the highest eyeballs for both the brand as well as the news channel. We have got shows like What the world wants, What the markets want. They are shows that are run-up to the budget. There is a unique show which is called The Budget Karawan, where we go on the ground to the industrial hub of the country and try to understand the perspective of these businesses, their expectations. We have shows that have industry leaders from the corporate world as well as the policy machinery of India. Right after the budget we have a show known as The Budget Decode where we analyse the budget, these are leading properties of CNBC-TV18. 

4. What kind of premium do you charge on the regular rates for pre-budget programming and for the budget day? Are the budget day ad rates at par with vote counting day for general news channels which is usually in the range of Rs 1 to 2 lakh per 10 seconds?

Yes, there is a premium on Budget Day advertising, the peak on the budget day and also both pre- and post-budget days. It really helps the business of the channel.

5. How much increase in ad revenue do you expect on the budget day in comparison to last year?

We are seeing an increase of 20-25% this year in the ad revenue when it comes to this year. This year it's mainly about growth and we are expecting the same after the last two years which were all about the massive impact Covid had on business. We are expecting a significant growth.

6. Finally, how much does the pre-budget and budget programming contribute to the overall revenue for the channel?

The budget programming contributes around 6-7% of the overall channel’s ad revenue. It not only includes TV but also Digital platforms. We are an integrated news room.

7. Do you sell digital and TV separately?

Yes, sometimes we sell both of them separately but yes, there are times when we sell them combined too. We charge a premium as well on digital channels during budget period.

8. The legacy brands like CNBC-TV18 might not be impacted by the data dark period but CNN-News18 has been struggling in the interim. How would the return of ratings on March 17 play out for the channels under you?

We are looking forward to ratings coming back. So, let's see how it plays out. I don’t think it will impact the ad rates, even without the ratings they have not changed much. With the election phase coming in, we are expecting more ad revenue.

9. Podcasts and audio have become quite popular with brands. What are you doing in that area? 

We do a lot of work in the audio spaces, last month only we did a show known as Medicine Box in which we were talking to the pharma industries. We get a lot of interest from the brands as well, as they are also keen on exploring different mediums, formats. As we are growing revenue models will be layered and not just be limited to the traditional mediums.

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